1) Yesterday, two pieces on Congressman Darrell Issa’s proposal to relax the federal limits on DC’s buildings heights got a lot of coverage. At City Block, Alex Block makes the key point that outside of downtown, DC’s density is limited by zoning, rather than the height limit. He supports allowing more multifamily housing by, for example, dividing row houses into apartments. He also makes the point that taller buildings can actually add to the vistas that height limit proponents are so concerned about. I think this is particularly true on the 14th Street Corridor, Connecticut Ave, and New Hampshire Ave.
2) On the other hand, Harry Jaffe at the Washington Examiner denies the laws of supply and demand, claiming that increasing allowable height could not possibly lower rents. He writes of the limit, “It has forced development out of downtown and into the neighborhoods, around Metro stops, which is healthy growth: out, not up.” The most troubling part of his piece is that he suggests developers’ use of the profit incentive is “about greed, period,” ignoring the mutual benefits that increased density in the city would permit.
3) Will Doig interviewed me for a piece on historic preservation at Salon. He concludes, “Landmarking is meant to preserve structures whose loss would be an affront to history. Removing entire neighborhoods from the natural evolution of cities is another thing entirely.”
4) Matt Yglesias observes that in Tom Vanderbilt’s series about pedestrianism, most of the cities with the highest Walk Scores are liberal. I think Matt rightly concludes that this correlation is primarily driven by older, more walkable cities being coastal, where more liberal people tend to live. However, this also ties in to a question Charlie Gardner raised a while back with regard to proposed changes to the zoning process in Tennessee and Arizona:
Oddly, the idea of selectively or fully repealing zoning – a perfectly legal course of action – seems not to have gained any traction even in such ostensibly pro-property rights states as Arizona or Tennessee. Arizona’s libertarian-supported Proposition 207 focused on declines in property value resulting from rezonings, while avoiding the broader point that it is zoning itself that serves as the greatest suppressant of
both property values and the free use of land.
[. . .]
Do libertarian principles perhaps yield to a strong personal preference for low-density, use-segregated single-family zoning and fears of change? Are restrictive covenants, in spite of the example of Houston, seen as an inadequate stand-in? And why cast the language of these statutes in terms of landowner objections to city rezonings, rather than granting owners the right to obtain rezonings on their own terms?